Sun Safety: Is Your Sunscreen Protecting You?

About 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, making it the most common form of cancer in the country. Skin cancer develops from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or artificial tanning beds.

Oswald Mikell, MD, and our team at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry specialize in diagnosing and treating skin cancer. Although it’s the most common type of cancer, there are ways to protect yourself while still enjoying your favorite outdoor activities. In fact, regularly applying sunscreen decreases your risk of getting skin cancer by up to 50%.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re spreading the word by taking a closer look at sunscreen. Is your sunscreen doing enough to protect your skin? And what else can you do to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer? In this blog, we discuss what you can do to protect yourself.

Getting the most out of your sunscreen

Sunscreen blocks harmful UV rays from damaging your skin. When used correctly and applied regularly, sunscreen reduces your risk of developing skin cancer and helps prevent premature skin aging from sun damage.


Everyone over the age of six months should wear sunscreen every day, regardless of their skin tone. Babies under six months have very sensitive skin, and they should wear sun-protective clothing and stay in the shade. 

What to look for in sunscreen

Some sunscreens are better than others. For the best in sun protection, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, meaning it blocks UVA and UVB rays. Furthermore, look for a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. If you’re planning to be in the sun all day, choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

If you’re going to be swimming or sweating excessively, use a water-resistant sunscreen. While no sunscreen is completely waterproof, water-resistant sunscreens are meant to last longer in wet conditions.

Reapply your sunscreen regularly. Sunscreens will lose their efficacy over time. And, if it’s cloudy outdoors, that doesn’t mean you can put away the sunscreen. You should put it on then, too.

How to apply sunscreen

Apply your sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside, because it takes some time for the product to absorb into your skin. After your initial application, reapply it every two hours or more frequently if your skin is getting wet.

Use about one ounce of sunscreen over your whole body. Be sure to apply it to all your exposed skin, and don’t miss those easy-to-forget spots, such as the tops of your ears and the backs of your hands. 

Going beyond sunscreen to protect your skin

Clothing can shield your skin from the sun, particularly if you wear clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which can block even more UV light. Consider wearing lightweight pants and long sleeves to protect yourself from the sun.

A wide-brimmed hat will protect your neck, ears, and face. Wearing a hat is particularly important if you’re bald or your hair is short and thin, because it will block rays from reaching your scalp. And don’t forget your eyes. Wear sunglasses with UV-blocking lenses to protect your eyes and the skin around them.

The sun is the strongest between the hours of 10am-4pm. To minimize exposure, stay inside or stick to shady areas in the middle of the day. Find shade under trees, umbrellas, and porches to enjoy the great outdoors while protecting your skin.

By taking these steps, you can help keep your skin healthy for years to come.

To learn more about treating or preventing skin cancer, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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